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The FA and Tesco this week revealed details of a far-reaching programme aimed at giving youngsters up and down the country the opportunity to get active and have fun while improving their football skills.
The three year programme, co-ordinated by The FA and funded by Tesco and the National Sports Foundation, aims to give one million children in England top-quality skills coaching by summer 2010.
A total of 66 specialist skills coaches will focus on raising technical standards at the 5-11 age group, when ball skills are ingrained.
The coaches, who include former Aston Villa and Liverpool winger Mark Walters, current England women's international Fara Williams and former England Women's striker Marieanne Spacey, have all completed a three-week intensive skills coaching course.
The skills coaches will put on sessions in schools and clubs, as well as after-school and holiday skills centres, so that youngsters can be inspired to get active and maximise their ability, whatever their level.
The FA Tesco Skills Programme was officially launched at Wembley Stadium by FA Chief Executive Brian Barwick, FA Director of Football Development Sir Trevor Brooking, Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, Sean Holt of Sport England/National Sports Foundation, and Frank Lampard, who led an exclusive coaching session for 20 excited local children on Wembley Way.
The England and Chelsea midfielder said: "The importance of good grassroots training for children cannot be underestimated.
"I remember practising my skills over and over as a youngster and that has helped me reach the top. Whatever your ability, the Skills Programme will help make you a better player."
Brian Barwick added: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Tesco on what will be a hugely important initiative for the long-term health of English football. We share a firm commitment to keeping boys and girls involved in the game, to ensuring that football is fun and enjoyable, and to giving them the opportunity to be the best players they can be through top-quality coaching."
Sir Trevor Brooking commented: "At the elite end of the game, there is concern over the skill gap between English youngsters and their European counterparts, which has an obvious impact of our future success as a football nation.
"At grassroots level, the skills programme will enable us to begin the challenge of raising the technical bar in English football at the key 5-11 year-old developmental stage. It is also about providing specialist, quality coaching to give young players an enjoyable, stimulating environment to maximise their ability."
Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco CEO, commented: "Being a massive football fan myself I am delighted that we are working with The FA at a local level. The scheme will encourage kids to get active, have fun and enjoy football, and the great thing is that both boys and girls at any level will be able to get involved.
"Tesco already runs a voucher collection scheme 'Sports for Schools and Clubs' where we have given £20m of sports equipment to schools and this agreement takes our commitment to sport and healthy living forward."
Derek Mapp, Chair of Sport England, which manages the National Sports Foundation to encourage partnerships between private investors and community sports projects, said: "This is a fantastic way of helping young people get the sporting habit. Coaches are crucial to the health of grassroots sport. This initiative will help raise standards and create opportunities in schools and clubs across the country."
From today, 5-11 year olds can sign up at www.thefa.com/Skills to join 'the greatest club in England'. On registering, youngsters can watch coaching videos, download skills challenges and get specialist advice and encouragement.
For further details on the programme visit www.thefa.com/Skills.
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